I had just finished breakfast at the diner. Everyone else, it seemed, was finishing their Friday nights. Me, I like to go to bed early at the end of the week. Life is exhausting when you’re chronically depressed.
I nodded and he said what’s up. Then, five or ten seconds later as we strode past one another:
“Excuse me, do you have an extra cigarette?”
I ignored him, pretended I didn’t hear. A second time:
“Do you have a cigarette you can spare?”
It’s one of those things I can spare so I turned around. My new colleague Kait, who is in town for the BEA, expressed some disbelief when, upon being greeted by a beatboxer on the street yesterday evening, I gave him two bucks. “That’s really generous,” she said. “I have money now,” I replied.
And that’s the thing. I have money. I don’t need it anymore.
The man who’d asked for a cigarette was a paranoid schizophrenic. “Can I ask you something?” he said.
“Who do I look like?”
I thought for a second. “Some dude, I guess.”
“No, but really, I don’t look like Obama to you?”
He turned to show me a profile view of his face. He was wearing a sweatshirt and pajama pants. He pulled out his ID.
“This is going to say that I’m someone else, but I’m not really Jewish,” he said.
“Okay,” I said.
“I just got out of the Interfaith and they gave me a bunch of paperwork to go through, and I’m about to head to the shelter.” He was smoking a shitty cigar and clinging to his wallet. “I’ve got foodstamps and all that. You know, back when I was in DC — that’s the District of Columbia — Michelle was doing all the paperwork, and I can tell you about how I got into office, but right now I’m just struggling to get through this paperwork.”
He showed me his ID again.
“It says Zimmerman, but that’s not the right name,” he said.
I gave him a fist bump and said, “Try to get the help that you need.” Then I turned around and left him on the street.